Ear Frames and Ear Cuffs

Design Idea E134 Necklace and Ear Cuff Set
by Barbara van Look, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

Boldly going where ear jewelry has rarely gone before, the ear cuff has grown up--and out!

Earring trends have been getting spectacular. Single earrings, statement earrings, mismatched pairs and multi-piercing earrings have been part of increased attention to ear jewelry in the past few years.

Ear Frames and Ear Cuffs The standard ear cuff, which used to be pressed around the antihelix of the outer ear, has evolved side by side with the creation and adoption of the ear frame. They're now a trend on the red carpet and beginning to appear in top-end boutiques.

The Ear Cuff

The ear cuff of the 1980s, made famous by the punk movement and musicians such as Cyndi Lauper, was an ideal jewelry for non-pierced ears and a way to add more metal to an already full look. By the time it was adopted by mainstream style, most ear cuffs were made out of then-inexpensive sterling silver and embellished with Southwestern or Native American themes, often with turquoise cabochons and dangling feather charms.

Then came the 1990s, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and the Bajorans. These aliens made popular the single ear cuff attached to a single earring (often a post-style) with a dangling charm. Suddenly, it was cool (at least in fandom circles) to wear a single piece of ear jewelry.

And then the ear cuff faded away, as the jewelry world focused on bracelets.

The Ear Frame

When the ear cuff returned a few seasons ago, it was affected by growing interest in historical jewelry and alternate cultural influences, especially the kaffa.

The kaffa was an over-the-entire-ear jewelry style commonly seen in ancient India, studded with pearls and other precious gems. Styles often included a chain running from ear to nosering (also popular). They were worn mostly at weddings and other joyful celebrations. The style spread to Thailand, where it changed again, growing significantly larger and showcasing bird or flame designs. Kaffas are worn as a part of traditional Thai clothing.

Similar styles were worn by wealthy women in the ancient Mediterranean; the Minoans, Greeks and Romans wore kaffa-like ear jewelry before the advent of what is commonly called the Dark Ages. So the kaffa disappeared from European fashion, in favor of hair jewelry and ear piercing. However, European colonialism brought the aristocracy of one part of the world into contact with the other. European kaffa-style designs--deeply influenced by exposure to eastern cultures and newly rediscovered finds from the ancient Greek and Roman worlds--were more restrained and limited to women only.
Ear Frames and Ear Cuffs

The kaffa faded away in the 1800s, revived briefly in the 20th century (during times when ear piercing was considered uncivilized or crass), then reappeared in 2003 at an Alexander McQueen collection.

Thus the modern ear frame was born.

And Now ...

Ear jewelry isn't what it used to be. It's better.

These days, it's taller, longer and wider. It's gotten fancier, dripping with swags of chains and charms. It's using chains to connect to facial piercings, across the back of the head to accentuate hair accessories, or under the chin (sometimes used to comedic effect with moustache charms). It's sprawling up the ear, crawling around the shell, perching on the tip.

The line between the ear cuff and the ear frame has further blurred, too:
  • Ear frames that end with post earrings (complete with swags of chain and dangling beads or charms)
  • Dragons that perch on the top of ear and coil down to become a pierced earring with a tail used as an earring back
  • Ear frames cut from metal sheet and covered with filigree leaves that fan out around the ear like a nautilus shell
  • Ear cuffs with gossamer-weight chains that run to multiple ear piercings--or to a facial piercing
  • Ear frames made of delicate wirework to replicate Tolkien-style elf ears, Lisa Frank-inspired butterfly wings or steampunk-influenced octopus tentacles
  • And more!
The ear cuff and the India kaffa have become two of the hottest ear jewelry trends. Worn alone, or connected to piercings, they're appearing on ears both famous and infamous, with style, sparkle and flair.

Ear Frames and Ear Cuffs Ear Frames and Ear Cuffs

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